Remembering Hans-Dieter Höpfner

November 20th, 2019 by Pekka Kamarainen

Today we heard the sad news that our former colleague (and long-time Visiting fellow of our institute ITB) Hans-Dieter Höpfner has passed away. To me this is striking, since I have just blogged about the historical events of 1989 (when the political system of former DDR collapsed) and of 1990 (when the two German states were unified). To me, my first encounter with Hans-Dieter was very much linked to these events. I first time met Hand-Dieter at the conference Hochschultage Berufliche Bildung in October 1990 in Magdeburg and got immediately acquainted with him. Then, with several irregular intervals our paths crossed time and again – and we were always happy to meet again and to catch up since the last time. Now, it is my turn to summarise my memories and to pay my respects to the nice colleague whom we have lost.

Meeting during the turbulent times of the year 1990

My first encounter with Hans-Dieter was a chance meeting. We were both participating in the Cedefop-led workshop at the conference in Magdeburg 1990 (Hochschultage Berufliche Bildung). I ended up being a last-minute addition to the program – as a speaker coming from the Nordic Countries, recommended by my earlier acquaintances from the Federal Institute for Vocational Training (BiBB) of West Germany. Hans-Dieter attended as one of the comparative and international researchers of the East-German Central Institute for Vocational Training (ZIB).

I was taking my first steps towards a career as a European and international researcher (coming from the remote Finland that was not yet an EU Member State at that time). Hans-Dieter was experiencing a rupture period – knowing that the institute for which he had worked would be closed and that he would not be one of those to get transferred to BiBB. So, there we were – two people with such different life situations – sitting next to each other during the workshop and then getting acquainted with each other. Already at that time I knew that Hans-Dieter would overcome the hard period and get along with the transition. What he told me about his background – being a specialist in psychology of work and work-related learning (and coming from the well-known Dresden-based school led by Winfried Hacker), I knew that he has the kind of expertise that is needed during the societal transformation of East Germany. This all turned out to be very true.

Meetings during the Modellversuch Schwarze Pumpe

Our next encounters were no longer such chance meetings but rather something to be expected. I had made further steps on my career path and had been sent in 1994 as a national seconded expert to Cedefop (European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training) – at that time located in Berlin. In the meantime I had had cooperation with ITB (Institut Technik & Bildung) and I had learned of their involvement in an experimental innovation project (Modellversuch – MV) with dually qualifying apprentice training at the brown coal site Schwarze Pumpe. With this background knowledge I was eager to participate in the annual Workshop of the MV Schwarze Pumpe in 1995. And there I met once again Hans-Dieter, who was part of the accompanying research (Begleitforschung) team together with Gerald Heidegger and Rainer Bremer who were old acquaintances from ITB. This event was inspiring since the apprentices from two trades were invited to present their joint working and learning project – constructing a fully working miniature model of the bricket-producing machine. This was a clear demonstration of participative, collaborative and shaping-oriented learning of the apprentices.

At a later phase Cedefop had been relocated to Thessaloniki, Greece and I had got a temporary contract as an EU-employed project manager. In this capacity I had taken the task to monitor (or accompany) parallel EU-funded R&D projects with similar educational ideas and working concepts. From this perspective I was happy to include the projects Post-16 strategies and Intequal (both dealing with dually oriented qualifications) into my list of projects to be accompanied. And indeed, ITB was a partner in both projects with the MV Schwarze Pumpe as a national case (to be examined from different perspectives. So, I had the chance to visit the site Schwarze Pumpe time and again. Once I visited an interim conference that assembled several German innovation projects with focus on dually oriented qualifications. And the then with the concluding conference I had brought a European delegation to attend the conference and to have an international workshop on the theme of the innovation project. Every time I was pleased to catch up with Hans-Dieter.

Meetings as researchers affiliated with the  ITB

Later on, our paths went to somewhat different directions. During my last years in Cedefop I had less field visits and in 2002 I returned to Finland. Then, after some time, in 2005, I got a new chance to engage myself in European and international projects – now as a contracted researcher of ITB. In the meantime Hans-Dieter had found his way to international development aid projects as an expert on vocational education and training (VET). He had a remarkable experience with the societal transformation in East Germany and in adjusting the VET provisions to market economy.  With this know-how he was considered as a prominent expert by the development aid agencies of German-speaking countries that had projects in former Soviet republics.  And strangely enough, we had both been acknowledged with the status of Visiting fellow of ITB. (For me, this was only an interim phase, since I got employed by ITB, whilst for Hans-Dieter this was a matter of maintaining the working relation with ITB.)

So, once again we had our chances to catch up with Hans-Dieter, mainly during the annual meetings of the advisory board (Beirat) of the ITB. On such occasions we had the chance to refresh our memories of earlier times and inform each other of our newer activities. Hans-Dieter had experienced all kinds of things in the faraway countries in which he had worked and we were keen to learn more of his experiences. Also, he was interested to find out what we were doing and how we were doing – in Germany, in our EU projects and in our international projects.

And most of all, Hans-Dieter was popular as a story-teller – whatever the subject matter. For me, as a Finn, it was interesting that one of his favourite authors was the Finnish humourist Arto Paasilinna. It was such a pleasure to share impressions of Paasilinna’s writings – be it the Year of the Rabbit or the Nine Buildings or whatever.

Now we have lost the fine colleague, but his memory lives with us.

More blogs to come (with newer topics, I hope) …

 

 

 

 

Remembering David Raffe and his life-work – a special issue of Journal of Education and Work

November 2nd, 2017 by Pekka Kamarainen

In February 2015 we received the sad news that professor David Raffe, a prominent educational sociologist and key actor in European vocational education and training (VET) research had passed away. At that time I wrote a blog in which I remembered his contribution to European projects and to the VETNET network of the European Educational Research Association (EERA). Shortly afterwards David’s closest colleagues contacted my with the idea to prepare a special issue of a journal to highlight David’s work and the legacy he has left.

Now, after some time has passed since that communication, our work has been completed and the results have been published as

 Journal of Education and Work, 2017 VOL . 30, NO . 7

The special issue provides insights into David’s fields of work and into his contributions to the research communities as well as to dialogue between researchers and policy makers. And the very special way in which David engaged himself in these activities is reflected in the headings of the articles, such as the following:

Bridging divides – social science, educational policy and the improvement of education and training systems: an appreciation the contribution of David Raffe (1950–2015) by Cathy Howieson, Ken Spours and Michael Young

To know ourselves? Research, data and policy-making in the Scottish education system by Cathy Howieson and Linda Croxford

English exceptionalism re-visited: divergent skill strategies across England and Scotland by Ewart Keep

What does it mean to conduct research into qualifications frameworks? by Stephanie Allais

This was not a complete table of contents but a sample of articles with headings that remind me of David’s way to tackle issues and problems very deeply – not accepting simple interpretations and seemingly obvious solutions.

My contribution to this special issue had the following title

Learning from Europe and for Europe with David Raffe – insights into early years of European cooperation in vocational education and training research

I hope that this heading speaks for the content and for the memories of David as a fellow colleague and a fellow European in the exercise of learning from each other and contributing to knowledge development at the European level.

I am pleased to see that this piece of work is now available and that we have managed to give insights into David as a person, into his work and into the legacy he has left.

More blogs to come …

Wrapping up the ECER 2017 experience – Part Four: Discussions on vocational teacher education

August 29th, 2017 by Pekka Kamarainen

With my three previous blogs I have started a series of posts reporting on the European Conference on Educational Research (ECER 2017) that took place last week in Copenhagen. The first post outlined a working agenda with themes to be covered. The second post provided insights into my own presentation. The third post discussed the themes ‘qualification frameworks’ and ‘credit transfer’. With this fourth post I try to give an overview on presentations that discussed reforms in vocational teacher education or issues related to practicum studies of teacher candidates. Here I am facing a multitude of presentations and sessions and I cannot even try to give comprehensive characterisations of them. Instead, I try to list the presentations below as thematic blocks and make some remarks on each block – with the hope that I get access to published 2017 Copenhagen presentations on the Vetnetsite and/or to full papers. At the end I will give links to our (ITB) projects of earlier years that can be read as background materials for the newer contributions.

Vocational teacher education in the light of recent reforms – Danish and Irish experiences

In this block I would like to discuss the two studies presented in the same session:

Vocational Teacher Education and Vocational Didactics – authored and presented by Henriette Duch from Denmark and

The Students’ Experience Of FE Teacher Education Qualification (TEQ) Programmes: A Study of FE Teachers Professional Development And Evolving Identity In Ireland: North and South – authored by Anne Graham Cagney, Carol Yelverton- Halpin, Ned Cohen and presented by Anne.

Both presentations gave a picture of reforms that were allegedly aiming to support pedagogic autonomy of vocational schools or to upgrade the level of vocational teacher education. In both cases the presenters brought into picture boundary conditions and side-effects that overshadowed the implementation.

Finding the ‘e’ in VET and the ‘researchers’ and ‘pedagogists’ in VET teachers

In this block I would discuss one single presentation with multiple messages:

What’s In A Name – VET Teachers Acting Upon The Meaning Of The ‘E’ In VET authored and presented by Lewis Hughes.

In this presentation Lewis gave us insights into a conversation approach to motivate and support VET practitioners to include research as part of their professional practice With the help of a framework (adapted from the Activity Theory group around Yrjö Engeström) Lewis is integrating researching related matters with these teachers perceiving themselves as educators and, accordingly, finding an interest in reflection that takes the shape of research. Moreover, when making this experience as a collective, the teachers are able to position themselves as doing ‘research’ as a means of continuing professional development and adding to vocational currency. Associated with this, Lewis referred to the Australian recent initiative of establishing the VET Practitioner Research Network (VPRN) – his Founding Partner involvement in this is adding to informing his research as his research is also informing his contribution to configuring and activity of the VPRN.

I assume that I have picked a key message from Lewis’ presentation (among other important points). To me it was important that I manage to bring into contact with Lewis a group of Italian VET teachers who represented the institute Cometa Formazione and had established their Cometa Research program based on similar ideas.

The development of VET teacher pedagogy through practice

In the third block I would like to discuss the  presentations of the final session of the VETNET program at ECER 2017:

Development of practicum pedagogy to enhance VET teacher learning – authored by Ingela Andersson, Ingrid Berglund, Ingrid Henning Loeb, Viveca Lindberg and presented by Ingrid from Göteborg.

The practice of feedback in practicum periods in VET – case of Swedish-speaking Finland – authored and presented by Birgit Schaffar-Kronqvist from Turku/Åbo.

Developing novice VET teachers’ pedagogy: A work-based learning curriculum framework – authored and presented by Susanne Francisco from Australia.

Here the two first presentations by Ingrid and Birgit discussed the shaping of vocational teacher education programs by universities in Sweden and in (Swedish-speaking) Finland. These programs are delivered by universities (or by universities of applied sciences) independently of the Bachelor-Master structures. The volume of the program is in Finland 60 ECTS points and in Sweden 90 ECTS points. Both programs can be studied as full-time students or as part-time students. The learning arrangements are appropriate for teacher candidates who are already working as teachers without formal qualification, and for people with vocational backgrounds without teaching experience. The schedules (with on-the-job learning and presence sessions) are attractive for adult learners who want to shift to teacher occupation. However, in both cases the presenters reported on tensions regarding the role of practicum (practice-based learning period) and challenges, how to implement these periods in a such a way that the VET teacher candidates have new learning experiences.

In this context Susanne Francisco brought into discussion theoretical insights (with reference to Stephen Kemmis from Australia, who also attended the session) and selected examples from the practice. She also presented some exemplary ‘learning journeys’ that demonstrated, how teacher candidates’ learning processes in practicum can be kept at ‘ordinary’ level or enhanced or driven into dead ends. Altogether, we had an interesting discussion

Revisiting ‘Vocational teachers and trainers’ and ‘Practice-based learning’ as prior European project themes

I am aware that I have only scratched the topics above and not really entered them. That is why I have presented them as thematic blocks that I want to revisit in due time. In this context I also want to revisit the materials of some earlier European projects in which I was involved in one way or another, such as:

  • The Europrof project and its follow-up activities (Training of new VET professionals; 1996 – 2001)
  • The UNIP network for developing an international framework for TVET teacher education (2004 – 2006)
  • The TTplus project in Europe (focus on trainers) and TT-TVET project in Europe and Asia (2006 – 2009)
  • VET teachers and trainers – Consultation seminars in six European regions (2008 – 2009)
  • The Euronet-PBL project (Practice-based learning in engineering, business management and VET teacher education (2008-2010)

I have collected the materials on ResearchGate to the following two Project spaces:

Workplace Learning/ Practice-Based Learning – Legacy of European projects 2005 – 2012

Teachers & Trainers in Vocational Education &Training – Legacy of European projects 1995 -2010

and regarding ECER conferences

My VETNET Journey – Archives of my contributions to ECER conferences and VETNET network (1992 – 2016)

– – –

I think I have made enough notes and taken plenty of homework for the time to come. In my next post I will report on a very interesting workshop at ECER 2017.

More blogs to come …

My journey with Institut Technik & Bildung (ITB) – Part Two: From MV Schwarze Pumpe to European projects 1995 – 1999

December 9th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

With my previous post I started to write a serious of blogs with the heading “My journey with Institut Technik & Bildung (ITB)”. These blogs are intended to support the work (or follow-up) of the ITB “Klausurtagung” that will take place on Friday 9. December 2016.  The inspiration to write personal blogs that deal with the history of ITB comes from the Klausurtagung 2015, when we had a presentation by Klaus Ruth on some highlights of the history of ITB. With this series I try to compensate my absence due to health issues and to pass a message, wah has happened at different times and with different themes. In the first post I tried to cover my first encounters –  my study visit in 1989 and participation in the Hochschultage Berufliche Bildung 1990 conference. In this second post I will give insights into the Modellversuch Schwarze Pumpe – the pilot project with which ITB worked in European cooperation projects 1995 – 1999.

‘Gleichwertigkeit’ and ‘Doppelqualifikation’ as emerging themes

As I indicated already in my previous post, at the end of 1980s and in the beginning of 1990s Finland was preparing structural reforms in the educational system. The mergers and upgradings in higher vocational education – the creation of the Finnish Fachhochschulen was less controversial and was implemented quickly. However, the corollary issue – how to keep a balance between ‘academic’ and ‘vocational’ learning pathways in the upper secondary eduvcation, was more problematic. Traditionally Finland had followed in its educational policies the Swedish reforms that emphasised comprehensivisation and unification of educational institutions and getting rid of separate ‘academic’ and ‘vocational’ tracks. However, in the above mentioned debates the Finns were distancing themselves from what they felt ‘academisation’ of vocational learning and were looking for alternative models. From this perspective, alternative models of curricular cooperation between ‘academic’ and ‘vocational’ learning were explores – as means to improve the attractiveness of vocational education- were discussed. And during these debated Gerald Heidegger from ITB was invited as visiting expert to contribute to such debates. Later on, when the Finnish upper secondary experiments (with curricular cooperation between Gymnasium and Vocational schools) was launched, Günter Kutscha from the University of Duisburg was invited to the international evaluation team (with his expertise on the Kollegschule implementation).

‘Modellversuch Schwarze Pumpe’ takes off

In the light of the above it is worthwhile to note that the German educational policies in the 1990s were looking for new ways to enhance vocational learning and vocational progression routes. To a major extent this was motivated by efforts to re-integrate some of the educational models of DDR into the sytemic frameworks of BRD. From this perspective the ‘new’ Federal states launched several pilot projects (Modellversuche) to incorporate curricula with dually valid qualifications (Doppelqualifikationen). Whilst these ‘pilots’ were mainly based on existing established (and mostly successful) practice of the late DDR, there was a need to accommodate such programs under the dual system of vocational education and training (VET) and to clarify the progression models. In this context the pilots were setting new accents.

In this context the ‘Modellversuch Schwarze Pumpe’ played a special role. Firstly, this was due to the industrial partner and the technologies involved- the energy plant LauBAG was relying on the regional brown coal resources. and related energy production. From the ecological point of view this couldn’t be characterised as sustainable, neither was the company at that time profitable. However, it was the major energy provider for a wide region and a major employer in the regional labour market. Yet, in the light of the inevitable exit from brown coal, the company had to find a balance between measures to keep skilled workforce for current production and preparing them for alternative occupational prospects after the brown coal era. Secondly, the educational concept of the pilot project was to introduce vocational curricula that provided dually valid qualification (craftsman certicate and access to higher education – Berufsqualifikation mit Fachhochschulreife) in integrated learning arrangements.  Thirdly, as a special accent of ITB (as responsible for accompanying research) and due to the aptitude of local teachers and trainers, there was a special possibilty to develop integrative working and learning arrangements in which social shaping and self-organised project work played a major role. (I personally could experience this last mentioned aspect in the conferences hosted by MV Schwarze Pumpe in 1995 and in 1997 8n which the apprentices (Azubis) demonstrated their projects). So, in 1994 the combined Modellversuch started with Gerald Heidegger in charge of the accompanying research team in which Rainer Bremer was responsible for accompanying the school pilot and Hans-Dieter Höpfner on the pilot in the in-company training.

Project Post-16 strategies and follow-up

In the light of the above it is understandable that the ITB approach in emphasising the Gestaltung (social shaping) idea and enhancement of vocational learning attracted European attention – in particular, when the MV Schwarze Pumpe provided a pilot ground to be studied. This possibility was picked by the Finnish-led project initiative “Finding new Strategies for Post-16 Edutacation (Acronym: Post-16 strategies). This initiative was inspired by the Finnish upper secondary pilot and its international review and the preparation of the project supported by the Finnish educational authorities. The project was approved as one with the strongest resources in the Leonardo da Vinci programme, strand ‘surveys and analyses’.

The project, coordinated by Johanna Lasonen (University of Jyväskylä)  focused on the policy issue, how to promote parity of esteem between ‘academic’ and ‘vocational’ learning (Gleichwertigkeit allgemeiner und beruflicher Bildung). At an early phase the project identified four kinds of strategies:

  • Unification (Unified frameworks for  upper secondary education – in the project covered by Scotland and  Sweden)
  • Mutual enrichment (Curricular cooperation between general and vocational education – covered  by Finland and Norway)
  • Linkages (Introducation of parallel ‘Bacalaureat’ diplomas for bringing general and vocational education to same level –  covered by France and England (at the level of initiative))
  • Vocational enhancement (Upgrading of vocational curricula via internal development and enrichment – in the project covered by Germany and Austria. German contribution was provided by ITB on the basis of MV Schwarze Pumpe.).

Having identified these main types the project avoided the trap to enter a ‘system competition’ between them – to ‘mainstream the winner’. Instead the project worked in small groups to learn more of the boundary conditions, pattern variances and relative strenghts/weaknesses of the types. Furthermore, the project promoted dialogue between the groups in order to find points for learning from each other. Finally, the project organised short mutual study visits of practitioners between differently positioned countries. Altogether, the project created an interesting European group picture.

Unfortunately the immediate follow-up project Spes-Net didn’t have similar resources to keep the initial partners involved when new partners were brought in to carry out similar analyses and to position themselves vis-à-vis the above mentioned  strategy types. Nevertheless, some level of dialogue could be maintained and some movements in the strategies observed.

Project Intequal and follow-up

In addition to the above mentioned project Post-16 strategies, ITB and MV Schwarze Pumpe were involved also in another European project funded by the programme Leonardo da Vinci, surveys and analyses. The project ‘Integrated qualifications’ (Acronym: Intequal) was initiated by the German comparative VET researcher Sabine Manning (Research Forum WiFo). She had already in the early 1990s studied the newer German pilot projects on ‘Doppelqualifikation’ from the perspective of international comparisons. At the European level she had worked in a pioneering European project on ‘Modularisation’ in the field of VET. In this respect her project focused on the meso- and micro-systemic implementation of vocational curricula or schemes providing dually oriented qualifications.

The countries and the schemes involved were the following ones:

  • Germany – ITB and MV Schwarze Pumpe as well as ISB München and a similar pilot project from Bayern,
  • Sweden – HLS (latterly Stockholm University) and the integrated upper secondary education,
  • Norway – SYH (latterly HIAK, latterly HIOA) and the integrated aupperr secondary/transition to apprenticeship,
  • the Netherlands – SCO-KohnstammInstituut and the MBO (middenbare beroepsonderwijs) scheme,
  • England – University of Warwick and the GNVQ (general national vocational qualification) scheme,
  • France – CEREQ and the schemes of Baccalaureat professionelle,
  • Austria  – IBW and the WiFi Academies schemes in vocational adult education (supported by chambers of commerce).

The Intequal project avoided debates at the systemic level and focused on the level of curriculum implementation, learning arrangements, assessment and learning careers. In this way the project gathered insights into the shaping of the curricula and on the feedback data that informed on the acceptance of the schemes. At the end of the initial project itsv work was continued by a multiplier-effect project ‘Duoqual’, but – in a similar way as with ‘Spes-Net’, the funding could only support the work of new partner countries but not effectively the dialogue with initial partners. Nevertheless, the mapping of curricula and schemes (promoting dually oriented qualifications) could be continued across Europe.

– – –

I think this is enough of the MV Schwarze Pumpe and of the European projects in which it was involved as the German case. Here, it is worthwhile to mention that I was involved in these activities with a new role. From 1994 on I worked as a project manager at Cedefop (European Centre for Development of Vocational Training) and was accompanying European projects – and promoting cooperation, synergy and mutual exchanges across them. The two above mentioned projects developed most intensive cooperation and were strongly present in European events (e.g. ECER conferences and EU-presidency conferences of that time. Such networking and promotion of research cooperation was also practiced with other themes and projects.

More blogs to come …

My journey with Institut Technik & Bildung (ITB) – Part One: The magic years 1989-1990

December 8th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

This week (on Friday) our institute will have a special event “Klausurtag” to reflect on the development of our patterns of work. This event is supported by a particular pilot activity inspired by the Learning Layers (LL) project. Our LL team has created together with the developers of the Learning Toolbox a specific stack “Klausurtag” to share information and to work with specific issues raised in the last year’s event or to take further issues that are discussed this year. As I cannot participate due to health issues, I have chosen a special program for me. Last year it became apparent that our young colleagues are interested to know more about the history of our institute – and not only of the facts that are written down in history documents but more about the lived practice in research – in projects, networks and communities. As an oldtimer with a special relation with our institute – Institut Technik & Bildung (shortly ITB) – I have decided to write a serious of blogs with the heading “My journey with Institut Technik & Bildung (ITB)”.  In this first post I try to cover my first encounters during the years 1989 and 1990 – which in many respect were ‘magic years’ for Germany and for me.

My study visit in October-November 1989: Five weeks travelling around Germany

My contacts with ITB started in 1989 when I had got grants from the DAAD and my university to carry out a five weeks’ study visit program involving German research institutes in the fields on vocational education and training (VET), industrial sociology and industrial relations. This study visit was part of my effort to prepare the grounds for similar approaches in the newly created Work Research Centre of the University of Tampere. In this respect I tried to collect impressions from several neighbouring research approaches and inform myself of similarities, differences and synergies. During this trip ITB in Bremen was my first station and remained as my major cooperation partner. Yet, I found that at that time there were several evaluative measures going on in which many of my counterparts were involved. From that point of view the visit was well timed. However, the most impressive experience during the trip was the possibility to follow from close distance the erosion of the DDR-regime – which culminated in the opening of Berlin wall three days after I had returned to Finland.

Talks in ITB and on ITB projects: Berufspädagogen, Berufsbilder 2000, CAPIRN, Landesprogramm AuT

In ITB my two-day visit was hosted by Gerald Heidegger. With him we discussed firstly the general picture of the relatively new institute – its commitment to vocational teacher education and to interdisciplinary research in VET and the importance of the guiding principle ‘Gestaltung’ (social shaping of work, technology, work organisations and vocational learning). On the more specific talks on different projects of that time I can recall the following impressions:

  • Pilot project “Qualifizierung der Berufspädagogen für alle Lernorte” (discussions with Peter Gerds and Helmuth Passe-Tietjen): This project was a smaller local pilot the sought find flexible solutions that enable career shifts between teacher/trainer/training manager positions. I do not remember the details of the approach and of the boundary conditions under which it worked. Nevertheless, the programmatic to address all learning venues with an integrative approach made an impression.
  • Scenario project “Berufsbilder 2000” (discussions with Gerald Heidegger): This project explored the prospects for skilled workers (Facharbeiter) in the context of computer-integrated manufacturing (CIM) – an early predecessor debate of the current one on ‘Industry 4.0’. The project explored several branch-specific technologies and drafted different policy scenarios for the use of semi-skilled vs. skilled workforce. Here the specific point was to highlight the policy choices and the ole of social shaping (at the organisational level and as the contribution of skilled workers).
  • Industry culture project CAPIRN (discussions with Klaus Ruth): This project and the subsequent network initiative focused on different policy choices in designing CNC-tools – whether they are designed for lowly skilled workforce (little prospects for social shaping and users’ own programming) vs, skilled workforce (more options for social shaping and users own input). The first comparative studies had already ben carried out and the network was expanding to new countries.
  • Landesprogramm Arbeit  und Technik (discussions with Ludger Deitmer): As I had interpreted it, Germany was in a transition from one generation of socio-technic innovation prohrams (with focus on ‘Humanisation of Work’ (Humanisierung der Arbeit – HdA) to a new focus on social shaping of ‘Work and Technology’ (Arbeit und Technik – AuT). In this transition Bremen was playing a pioneering role and had appointed an expert commission to outline a regional innovation program. Ludger, who had been supporting the expert commission gave a report on the shaping of the forthcoming program and the way it is expected to implemented.

Discussions on cross-cutting themes and on overarching expert hearings and evaluation studies

Already in the themes discussed in ITB I could see a set of cross-cutting themes coming up whilst some other themes came up in further institutes. Likewise, in several institutes I was informed of overarching expert hearings and evaluation studies to which my counterparts were contributing. Without going into details (and recapitulating particular talks) I try to give a group picture of such talks and different positions or contributions:

  • Kollegschule NRW (KS), Doppelqualifizierende Bildungsgänge Hessen (talks with Kalrheinz Fingerle, Gerald Heidegger, Arnulf Bojanowski, Antonius Lipsmeier): At that time Finland was discussing reforms in educational structures. The integrated framework fo upper secondary education – as piloted in the Kollegschule in Nordrhein-Westphalen wasone of the interesting models. I got a lot of materials and reflections why such reform concepts fell between mainstream institutions and how the curriculum innovations with ‘integrated’ qualifications tended to lack the ‘grounding’ in occupational work. Therefore, Gerald emphasised the importance of such pilots that are based on apprentice training (instead of other vocational paths).
  • Bundestag Enquete-Kommission “Zukunft der Arbeit”: (talks with Gerald Heidegger, Burkart Lutz): The above mentioned scenario project “Berufsbilder 2000” was one of the projects invited to the expert commission of the German parliament to explore the future of skilled work in Germany. It appeared that the industrial sociologists saw the risk of polarisation as the likely option, whilst VET researchers emphasised the role of social shaping of work, technology and work organisations.
  • DFG-Denkschrift “Berufsbildungsforschung” (talks with Burkart Lutz, Laszlo Alex, Wolfgang Lempert): The German Research Council had set up an expert commission to examine the status and resources of research in VET – in the universities and in non-university institutes. The general picture was that the more policy-related research was concentrated in bigger public R&D institutions (BIBB, IAB) and in university affiliated institutes (MPI Berlin, SOFI, ISF) whilst the research in pedgaogics of VET (Breufspädagogik) was fragmented. Here, the former mentioned instititutes were recommending cooperation to create centres of excellence based on inter-university cooperation, whilst the university representatives wer expecting ‘natural growth’ of some top institutes.
  • Modellversuchsforschung (talks with Heiz Holz, Dieter Weissker, Peter Dehnbostel, Brigitte Wolff, Gerhard Zimmer): In BIBB I had discussions on the current stand of pilot projects (Modellversuche) and related accompanying research (Begleitforschung). The coordination unit was supporting thematic clusters (Modellversuchsreihen) of pilot projects in order to promote synergy and learning from each other.
  • HdA- & AuT-Begleitforschung (talks with Gerhard Bosch, Rainer Lichte, Else Fricke, Eva Kuda, Norbert Altmann, Ingrid Drexel, Christoph Köhler, Frieder Naschold): In the institutes that were affiliated to trade unions and/or specialised in industrial reations and labour process research I had several talks on the experiences of the eatrlier HdA-program and the related accompanying research (with which the researchers had note always been in good terms with the social partners). Now I couls see that in the successful cases the researchers were moving from observational into co-shaping approaches (e.g. regarding the introduction of apprentice training models alongside automation). In this way resewarch teams were supporting workers’ participation and social shaping of work processes.

I guess this is enough of  my impressions on the discussions. At the same time when I was approaching Berlin, my last station, the old regime of DDR came to dead end and had to give up. After a rupture period the political process took the course to unification.

Hochschultage Berufliche Bildung 1st to 3rd of October 1990 in Magdeburg

Almost one year after I had another opportunity to visit Germany by participating in the conference “Hochschultage Berufliche Bildung” 1990 in Magdeburg. This conference was initiated by the founders of ITB in the 1980s (before the ITB was founded) and it served as a joint forum of researchers in VET and active practitioners with interest in research. In addition to plenary sessions the conference had several regular domain-specific sessions (Fachtagung) and another set of thematic workshops (which may vary from one year to another). The conference of the 1990 was originally given for Stuttgart but it was relocated to Magdeburg – as a sign to build good neighbourhood relations between the Federal Republic of Germany (BRD) and the German Democratic Republic (DDR) which was in transition. However, shortly after this decision had been made, it appeared that the two German states will be unified during the conference dates. Thus, the conference was started in Magdeburg, DDR and finished in Magdeburg, BRD. And the announced main theme ‘Key qualifications’ was overshadowed by questions, challenges and anxieties regarding the rapid unification.

The big picture of unification – and the instant implementation of the legislation of BRD in the ‘new Federal states’ dominated the plenary sessions. They were expected to make a rapid transition from the school-based and company-affiliated vocational education system into the dual system of apprenticeship. This was a major organisational, administrative and educational challenge. At the some of the educational solutions of DDR that were valued by West-German educationalists, were given up. These issues were discussed openly and the participants from West tried to to show very cleatrly their solidarity to their Eastern colleagues who were implementing changes with very tight schedules.

From the specific sessions I remember that I followed firstly the discussions in the Fachtagung “Metalltechnik” chaired by Prof. Hoppe from ITB. Then I moved to Fachtagung “Wirtschaft und Verwaltung” in which I followed the presentations of Dr. Benteler on the Modellversuch at Klöckner Stahl (rotating clerk-apprentices through different production units of the steelworks to give them an organisational overview) and of Dr.Rischmüller on Modellversuch WoKI on the training of clerk-apprentices at VW in Wolfsburg.

The highlight for me was the possibility join in the International workshop initiated by Cedefop (European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training) and to give a presentation on Scandinavian reforms in VET. In the relatively heterogeneous program of the workshop (with rather conversational presentations) my comparative view attracted attention and I got an invitation to the Soviet-European exchange seminar in Moscow (organised by the Soviet Academy of Educational Sciences and Cedefop).

– – –

I think this is enough of these ‘magic years’. I think I have made it clear, why I use this expression – both regarding the political processes and my individual experiences. I had started the journey to familiarise meself with the German VET and working life research. Very soon I was received as a contributor from Scandinavia to enter the European arenas of exchanges and cooperation in VET research. In the next phase on this career path I continued my cooperation with ITB.

More blogs to come …

Bremen talks on young refugees’ access to training and labour market – Part Two: The Bavarian model project and the discussion in the event

February 14th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

As already mentioned in my previous  blog, these two posts are not focusing on our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project. Instead I have taken up a major issue that we are discussing in the Bremen region: Measures to support the reception and integration of refugees.  In my previous post I started reporting on a public event “Perspektive Beruf: Junge Geflüchtete erfolgreich zum Berufsabschluss führen“. This event brought into picture fresh information and assembled several stakeholders from different organisations to joint discussion. In the first post I gave some background information on the event and present insights into a study on young refugees’ perspectives in Bremen. In this second post I will give insights into a model project in Bavaria (that was presented in the event) and highlight some key points of the stakeholders’ discussion.

1. Insights into the model project in Bavaria

The first part of the event was based on a Bremen-focused study that provided information on young refugees and their chances to get access to training and labour market in the Bremen region. The study had raised some issues that need further attention from policy makers and stakeholders who are engaged with support measures. The second part of the event was based on a guest input from the Federal state of Bavaria (Bayern).

This input was given by Manfred Bäuml who represented a foundation that supports educational projects in Bavaria (Stiftung Bildungspakt Bayern). He firstly gave insights into the innovation concept ‘vocational integration classes’ (Berufsintegrationsklassen) and how they have been embedded into the regulative frameworks. This concept is based on a 2-year long full-time school-based vocational education scheme that includes intensive language learning, vocational orientation, vocational subject-learning (including language support), internships in companies and opportunity to obtain/ refresh general school certificates). A key feature of this model is the collaboration between language teacher, subject teacher and social pedagogic advisor. (The key point in this model is that it is meant to provide entry to the regular vocational education and training provisions, not to replace them with a short variant.)

In his presentation Bäuml also made transparent the rapidly growing numbers of young refugees and the quick response in setting up such vocational integration classes all over the Federal state of Bavaria. This gave rise for setting up a state-wide model project to support the quality development in such classes and to enhance their acceptance. For this purpose the Federal state of Bavaria and the Foundation have set up the state-wide model project that involves 21 model schools (public vocational schools in all sub-regions) and several support organisations. The project works with organisational development, staff development and curriculum redesign. As special challenges Bäuml mentioned the following ones:

  • Functioning language learning – linking everyday life language learning and domain-specific vocabulary to each other;
  • Integration – bringing learners of integration classes and ordinary vocational classes into cooperation with each other;
  • Transition from school to occupational work – intensifying career guidance and counselling to facilitate personal commitment to the occupation in concern.

As Bäuml told, the project had only started at the end of 2015 and it was only in the process of building up its network and support activities. Yet, the work was making progress all over Bavaria.

2. Key issues taken up in the stakeholders’ discussion 

The event was not planned just to present the study and the model project but to stimulate discussion on necessary policy measures and ways to support different support initiatives. Therefore, the organisers had set up two rounds of discussions – after each presentation. Here, for the sake of simplicity, I try to pick up some key messages from both rounds without going deeply into details:

  • The representatives of vocational schools and and continuing training provisions – Herbert Grönegreß and Sandra von Atens – emphasised the necessity, not to challenge the refugees overly, to adjust the education/training provisions to what they can achieve and to provide well-timed support and constant support networks. Also, they emphasised the need to adjust the ‘offerings’ to refugees to their possibilities and to be prepared for providing second chances.
  • The company representative Michael Heyer told of the initiative of their company to select a group of refugees to be taken on internship and to prepare them for the opportunity to start a regular apprentice training. This initiative was launched in close collaboration and with support from public authorities. Concerning language support, the company arranged for them extra courses. Concerning integration, the company was surprised to see, how supportive and cooperative their ordinary apprentices were vis-à-vis the newcomers.
  • The Educational senator (minister) of the City state Claudia Bodegan put as into the picture of the scales of the problems. Concerning the reception of unaccompanied young people, the German cities had agreed on balanced quotas of reception (der Königstein Schlüssel). However, in 2015, Bremen had received five times as much young unaccompanied refugees – and, given the flow of refugees, it would have been inappropriate to push them elsewhere. Also, since Bremen is struggling with budgetary deficits, it doesn’t have such resources in the regular budgets as the richer Federal states. Furthermore, Bremen has had to make a difficult choice, whether to prioritise perfect diagnostic (at the expense of longer waiting times) or effective integration (at the expense of providing less favourable education and training opportunities). Here, the choice has been on avoiding  long waiting times in idlewild.
  • The representative  of the Chamber of Commerce, Karlheinz Heidemeyer, drew attention to the prompt responses of the member companies to their call for initiatives. in this way, and due to good cooperation with the local/regional authorities, the company-specific initiatives could be brought into action without unnecessary delays. In the same way he praised the good cooperation between different stakeholders in overcoming the formal hurdles and addressing the needs for Federal level policy adjustment.
  • The representative of the voluntary organisation Fluchtraum, professor Marc Thielen (also from ITB), shifted the perspective from the quantitative situation assessment, training opportunities and language courses to the individual situations of refugees. The organisation Fluchtraum that he represents, provides legal advice, guardians and mentors for unaccompanied young refugees. With insights into their life histories, learning histories and refugee histories, he emphasised the needs to get solid and trustworthy support persons and support structures for the refugees. He also addressed the need to avoid giving the refugees challenges that they cannot meet (e.g. in terms of starting regular vocational training before being properly prepared).
  • The representative of the host organisation Arbeitnehmerkammer, Regine Geraedts, drew attention to the readiness of different stakeholders in Bremen to tackle the problems as promptly as they could. Also, they had shown readiness to create new forms of cooperation for unbureacratic treatment of the problems of young refugees. Furthermore, they had shown readiness to take own initiatives at the same time as they had addressed needs to revise federal regulations. And, given the seemingly uncoordinated actions of voluntary organisations, they had been able develop flexible forms of coordination and to develop common discussion on policy development.

I guess this is enough of this event. I know that there were lots of details that I couldn’t grasp with this report. Nevertheless, I got a picture of a dynamic regional langscape of developing policies, services and support activities for young refugees. In addition, I could see a role for possible European cooperation measures (of which I discussed with some participants) in the coming times.

More blogs to come …

Learning Layers meets Finnish promoters of apprenticeship and workplace learning

June 8th, 2015 by Pekka Kamarainen

Last week (Thursday 4.6.2015) we had a small working meeting to present the current phase of the EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) pilots to our Finnish counterparts who are promoting apprenticeship and workplace learning. The event took place in Espoo, in the Design Factory building of the Aalto University and it was hosted by Marjo Virnes from Aalto and me from ITB. The Finnish counterparts represented the Finnish agencies for apprentice training (oppisopimustoimistot), the Finnish association of “Promoters of Apprenticeships” (Oppisopimuskummit ry) and the Finnish vocational teacher education in the fields of commerce and hospitality. Some of the invited participants were writing their doctoral theses on apprentice training – unfortunately not all could attend the meeting. Here some insights into our discussion.

1. Presenting the Learning Layers project and the LL tools

We started with an overview of the LL project – looking at prior European projects that had tried to promote e-learning, knowledge management and mobile technologies in working life. The shortcomings of the ‘technology push’ or ‘system push’ approaches had provided the basis for our project and its emphasis on learning at workplaces, participative design and iterative development processes.

In this spirit I (= Pekka Kämäräinen) presented the progress that we (ITB and the Bremen team) had made with our application partners (mainly Bau-ABC) in the construction sector. I explained the journey from the initial idea to digitise learning materials (design idea “Sharing Turbine”) and heading to the development of a mobile solution for managing learning resources and communication (Learning Toolbox).

Marjo Virnes explained firstly the key idea of the AchSo! tool for video annotation and then presented exemplary cases in the construction sector (apprentices and trainees using tablet PCs to document their learning at construction sites) and in healthcare (the nurses documenting each others’ efforts to revitalise patients in a simulated exercise). In these cases we could note the advantages of the video annotation tool to draw attention to critical details and episodes without the need to write extensive explanatory notes. At the same time we noted that the functionality for sharing and further commenting is under development.

I then presented the Learning Toolbox (LTB) with the help of the most recent power points and screenshots from the online demonstration that we had used recently. This presentation drew attention to the possibility to develop flexible frameworks for managing sets of tools and apps and for customising the menus and the sets for different contexts (training centres, companies, construction sites). In this context I also drew attention to the parallel development of the ‘technology package’ Layers Box that enables the user organisations to control the data and the internet connections of the LTB.

2. Discussion on the current phase of apprentice training (and of the role of research) in Finland

After these presentations Kari Viinisalo (retired director of the Helsinki agency for apprentice training) gave a brief overview of the status of apprentice training in Finland (as a complementary model parallel to school-based vocational education) and on the efforts to give more visibility to this path. In this context he drew attention to the work of the joint association of the agencies for apprentice training (OpSo ry) and of the newly established voluntary association of Promoters of Apprenticeships. His main concern was that research on apprentice training is very limited, falls between the established disciplines and has had very little visibility. From this perspective he welcomed the contribution of the LL project.

Annukka Norontaus (Jyväskylä agency for apprentice training) informed of her doctoral study that focuses on the expectations on/ impact of apprentice training on the companies involved. She had interviewed company representatives (that employ young learners in apprentice contracts) in five branches and also some company representatives that have not been involved in apprentice training. She also informed of some other parallel doctoral studies. Virve Vainio (Haaga-Helia University of applied sciences) informed of their forthcoming pilot event (forum for promoting workplace learning) and of the contribution of vocational teacher education in supporting workplace learning.

3. Conclusions for further cooperation

In the concluding discussion our Finnish counterparts felt inspired by the ongoing LL pilots and pointed to the potential of the tools in different organisational contexts. Also they emphasised the value of the R&D activities that put workplace learning and apprentice training into the centre of such pilots. They agreed to propose similar workshops (as our session) to be integrated into the regular bi-annual meetings of the national association of the agencies for apprentice training (OpSo). They also agreed to propose the launch of a ‘research forum’ section of the electronic journal “Osaaja”. We (as participants of the meeting) agreed to maintain communication with each other as a Working Group (with the nickname “Betoniryhmä” based on the street Betonimiehentie where the Design Factory is located). There is so much to be shared on the work of the LL project and on the context of apprentice training.

I think this all gives a sufficient picture of small steps to start with. As we noted it during the meeting, there are severe political pressures to cut costs of (vocational) education and training in Finland. Yet, there is also a growing interest to speed up the entry of young people into working life. Therefore, the role of apprentice training may be of major political interest in the near future.

More blogs to come …

 

Thoughts on reforms in vocational education and training (VET) – Part Four: Comparative analyses on European VET reforms

May 28th, 2015 by Pekka Kamarainen

In the first post of this series I informed of a new debate on the future course of the Finnish educational policy alongside a the ongoing coalition talks of three parties. The focal issue is seemingly the duration of the initial vocational education and training (VET) programs. With my second post I gave a picture on the educational policy background for the current debate. With my third post I  discussed the role of workplace learning and apprentice training in the bigger picture of educational reforms. With this post I try to set the Finnish developments into a wider European contexts.

1. Comparative analyses – what for and how?

Firstly, I need to ask myself, why I want to discuss the Finnish developments in a wider European context. Very often comparative analyses are expected to give insights into ‘best practice’ or ‘bad practice’. The foreign solutions for vocational education and training (VET) are expected to be highlighted either as positive models (to be copied) or as negative models (to be avoided). To me it is important that such simplistic approaches have been overcome long ago in the European cooperation of VET researchers. Instead of such simplistic rankings the interest of knowledge has been more dialogue-oriented: understanding each other, learning from each other.

In this context I do not try to carry out in-depth comparisons. Instead, I will firstly take a quick look to the discussion on reforms in post-16 education in a European cooperation project that analysed theses reform strategies in the years 1996-1998. Here my interest of knowledge is to see, how the Finnish reforms were perceived in a European group picture. Secondly, I will have a quick look at some parallel models for linking school-based vocational education to apprentice training. In this case I refer to separate contributions of my Scandinavian colleagues in different European conferences. Here my interest of knowledge is to find out what kind of consequences rapid systemic changes have had.

2. Strategies for post-16 education: alternative starting positions, options and possible consequences

In the initial phase of the new European cooperation programme Leonardo da Vinci (1995-2000) the policy-makers, researchers and practitioners were interested in projects that could draw a European group picture of parallel reforms and different goal-settings. From this perspective the Leonardo project “Finding new strategies for post-16 strategies” (coordinated by Dr Johanna Lasonen from the University of Jyväskylä) was of key interest. The project put an emphasis on specifying strategies to increase the attractiveness of vocational learning and to promote parity of esteem between general/academic education and vocational  education & training. From the perspective of the current debates the project is important since it could develop a joint framework for mapping different strategies – in which the partners could find themselves as part of a picture.

The project gathered background information on the educational systems, reform issues and possible ways forward. After the preliminary analyses the project identified four main types of strategies:

  • ‘Unified frameworks’ for general/academic education (either institutional unification or unified modular system),
  • ‘Mutual enrichment’ via boundary-crossing curricular cooperation (between general/academic and vocational learning),
  • ‘Linkages’ between different educational tracks via mutually adjusted baccalaureate frameworks,
  • ‘Enhancement of vocational learning’ via curricular initiatives in VET that open new progression routes.

Looking back, it is easy to see that these strategies had different cultural roots – some emerging from educational cultures that were open for structural reforms whilst others were characterised by underlying cultural distinctions. Some reforms tended to emphasise the integration of all upper secondary education – at the expense of the cultural identity of vocational and professional education. Others were deeply rooted in educational cultures that had clear barriers between general/academic and vocational/professional  learning pathways. Therefore, the models were hardly transferable and even the prospects for mutual learning between them remained limited. Yet, in this constellation the Finnish structural reforms were perceived as a constellation of measures  that could contribute to a more balanced demand of educational options between academic, professional and vocational learning opportunities. In particular the flexible curricular cooperation between general/academic and vocational programs in upper secondary education were perceived as interesting effort to keep the future learning pathways open to alternative directions.

3. Transitions between school-based vocational education and apprentice training: options and issues?

Whilst the above mentioned project and the comparative analyses were looking at educational system architectures and curricular frameworks, the role of vocational education and training (VET) in the integration of young people to working life was less central. From this perspective it is interesting to take a closer look at some Scandinavian VET reforms in which both aspects – coherent educational structures and integration to working life – were central. My key interest here is to discuss, how rapid redistribution of responsibilities between vocational schools and enterprises has contributed

a) The Danish VET reform (Erhvervsuudannelsesreformen) of the early 1990s. Befors that reform the ininal vocational training was provided within two frameworks. Traditional apprentice training was not very popular and seemed to be fading away. The alternative model – launched as a school-based foundation scheme (Erhvervsfaglige grunnduddannelse – EFG) was becoming more popular and was extended with workplace learning placements. The reform tried to merge the two models into unified curricular framework and into integrated delivery model. Thus, there were two different access routes and two different learner categories for the unified programs. Those who had apprentice contracts started with orientation block in their company. Those who came in as vocational school students had the orientation block at school. After that block the curriculum was continues as a sandwich model – school periods and workplace learning periods

The main thrust of the reform was to give a new push for apprentice training and to encourage companies to extend their activities. In this respect the companies were entitled to choose their school partners freely , without any geographic restrictions. The schools had to compete with each other on their attractiveness as providers of VET. Parallel to this, the vocational schools were made responsible to arrange workplace learning opportunities for the vocational school students who had no apprentice contract.

Contrary to the expectations, companies were not keenly interested in increasing the amount of apprentice contracts. And – furthermore – they were not interested in increasing the amount of workplace learning opportunities for vocational school learners to the extent that was needed. Therefore, vocational schools needed to create more opportunities for simulated learning – firstly as a compensatory measure but then as regular arrangement. These mismatches led to several modifications of the reform afterwards.

b) The Norwegian VET reform (Reform 94) in the middle of the 1990s. The background of this reform was the  earlier compromises between two earlier reforms – the creation of a unified framework for upper secondary education and enabling flexible transitions from school-based vocational education to apprentice training. On the paper both reform concepts worked very well. Within the unified upper secondary education the learners could make annual choices, whether to pursue a general/academic program  or a vocational program. The programs had a similar structure – foundation course, continuation course1 and continuation course. In order to complete a vocational program at least one year in apprentice training was required on top of the courses of the vocational programs. Within school-based programs flexible choices were allowed between different programs. Also, if the local vocational schools could not provide continuation courses, there was an opportunity to change to other school or to apprentice training.

The national review of the policy in the early 1990s (by committee led by Kari Blegen) revealed that the system leaked in many ways. Only the students in academic programs could be sure that they have a full menu of continuation courses. In vocational programs it became common that the students started moving sideways taking further foundation courses or first level continuation courses. There were many reasons for this. Also, the flexible transition to apprenticeship didn’t work as expected and most of the vocational school-leavers who could not take the advanced continuation courses dropped their programs.

The reform of the year 1994 gave the regional educational authorities new responsibilities to cater for the supply of school-based vocational education and on the flexible transition to apprentice training. The regions (Fylken) got the responsibility to arrange the opportunities to complete the two first years of initial VET in school-based education in their region. They also got the responsibility to arrange transition opportunities that enable completion of vocational qualifications. Thus, Norway introduced the 2+2 model. Vocational schools were responsible for the first two years. Companies and the joint bodies of trades and industries took over the responsibilities of the two second years.

Looking back, this reform model seemed to be successful in providing more training opportunities and in ensuring the completion of vocational qualifications. Yet, it seems that it led to a cultural divide between the two phases of the initial VET and between the key actors involved. This has led to subsequent modifications of the reform afterwards.

I think these remarks are enough to point out how complex the European group picture of VET reforms can be. Also, they show how easily reforms that count on rapid redistribution of responsibilities and on collaboration between different parties may miss their targets. In this respect it is worthwhile to learn more of the unintended consequences of such reforms. These blogs were just opening remarks for such analyses when they are needed. At the moment I need to return to the current issues of the Learning Layers project.

More blogs to come …

Thoughts on reforms in vocational education and training (VET) – Part Three: New emphasis on workplace learning and apprentice training in Finland

May 25th, 2015 by Pekka Kamarainen

In the first post of this series I informed of a new debate on the future course of the Finnish educational policy alongside a the ongoing coalition talks of three parties. The focal issue is seemingly the duration of the initial vocational education and training (VET) programs. With my previous post I gave a picture on the educational policy background for the current debate (looking back to the reforms of the 1990s). With this post I try to complete this picture by discussing the role of workplace learning and apprentice training in the Finnish vocational education and training (VET) system.

1. New emphasis on workplace learning in initial VET programs

I my previous post I described how the shaping of initial vocational education (mainly school-based) became part of a larger reform agenda. The duration of the vocational programs played a role in the attempts to create a balance between ‘academic’ and ‘vocational’ options in the upper secondary education. However, it appeared that this balancing approach put the main emphasis on the desired equality of these options as educational choices. By the end of the 1990s the discussion on initial VET gave more emphasis on workplace learning.

Already in the early 1990s several minor initiatives were taken to increase the amount of work experience placements in the school-based vocational education. By the end of 1990s the educational authorities and the Social Partners had agreed to strengthen the emphasis and to enhance the relative importance of workplace learning. In the new curricular frameworks the amount of workplace-based learning was increased to the equivalent of 1 year in full-time education. The educational authorities spoke of the 2+1 model. For this extension new cooperation frameworks were developed for vocational schools and participating enterprises. In this way both parties took responsibilities on the arrangement and monitoring – although the overarching responsibility was kept at the vocational schools.

Altogether, this was a cultural and organisational reorientation and it was introduced via pilot projects that were accompanied by an educational research project led by the University of Jyväskylä (and by Dr Johanna Lasonen as the key researcher). Looking back, the projects gave a positive picture of the enhancement of workplace learning. At the same time they pointed out that the development of appropriate workplace learning opportunities required efforts from all parties involved.

2. New interest in apprentice training

Parallel to the reforms in initial VET the policy makers who were concerned about appropriate solutions for adult learners had been promoting more flexible arrangements for obtaining vocational qualifications. In this strategy the nation-wide network for vocational adult education centres and the combined schemes of preparatory courses and competence-based assessment had played a central role. Without going into details with this policy development it is worthwhile to note that this approach seemed to be more appropriate for advanced vocational learners who were looking for frameworks for continuing professional development.

In the light of my previous blogs and the above mentioned remarks it is more apparent that the new interest in apprentice training has been linked more to adult learning than initial vocational eduction for youth. Given the scenario that the Finnish society is rapidly aging and that the youth cohorts are getting smaller, there has been an increased concern of providing appropriate learning opportunities for adults who are already in working life but lacking formal qualifications. for this clientele a modern apprentice training with tailored vocational subject teaching appeared to be a timely solution.

The modernisation of apprentice training had already been started in the early 1990s and the support organisation was reformed parallel to organisational reforms in VET. Currently apprentice training is managed from intermediate apprenticeship offices that are located in vocational school consortia and function as the brokers between the interested enterprises and the supporting vocational schools.

As has been mentioned above, apprentice training has been taken up more strongly as an option for adult learners but more recently it has been brought into discussion also as an option for young people. In particular in the construction sector there is a strong interest to promote a flexible transition from the earlier 2+1 model to a variant in which the third year would be implemented as apprentice training. However, as we know from different sources, this requires mutual agreement between different parties involved.

I think this is enough to set the issues of workplace learning and apprentice training to the bigger educational policy context. Having said that I think that it is worthwhile to consider, how this Finnish educational policy context fits to broader European group picture – both concerning structural reforms and the role of workplace learning.

More blogs to come …

Thoughts on reforms in vocational education and training (VET) – Part Two: Looking back at the Finnish reforms in 1990s

May 25th, 2015 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my previous post I informed of a new debate on the future course of the Finnish educational policy that has emerged as a by-product of the ongoing coalition talks after the parliament election in April. The focal issue is seemingly the duration of the initial vocational education and training (VET) programs. Yet, as the first reactions to the news from the coalition talks indicate, there seems to be much more at stake than a seemingly simple decision. With this blog post I try to give a picture on the educational reforms of the 1990s that gave the Finnish educational policy its core principles and the VET system its current frameworks.

1. What were the issues for the educational reforms in the 1990s?

The reform debates of the early 1990s were introduced by critical assessment of the earlier reforms of the 1970s. These earlier reforms had tried to provide a balance between the general (academic) track and the vocational (professional) track in the upper secondary education. In particular the status differences between different vocational/professional education options were to be reduced and the vocational/professional routes were supposed to become more attractive. After a lengthy implementation period  the reality showed a different picture.

The critical reviews by the educational authorities and independent research groups were summarised in 1990 in the following way:

1) The educational demand was characterised by academic drift: In spite of the efforts to create a new balance between the tracks, the educational demand of young people drifted towards the general/academic track and towards university studies. Given the fact that the Finnish universities have taken their students on the basis of domain-specific entrance examinations, this led to increased queueing of candidates for university studies.

2) The transition to vocational/professional options remained status-oriented: In spite of the efforts to reduce the status differences and to promote vocational progression, the educational demand led towards segmentation. The higher vocational (professional) options were overwhelmed by graduates from the general/academic track whilst graduates from vocational schools remained minority.

3) The use of lower vocational education options as transit stations: Parallel to the above mentioned tendencies there was an increase in the enrollment of graduates from the general/academic track to lower vocational education programs. Here, the interest was not necessarily to obtain an additional qualification but, instead, to obtain a domain-speficic transit station (to prepare for entrance examinations of universities or higher vocational education). Due to this increased demand the vocational schools started to develop special options for graduates from the general/academic track. In this way the vocational schools tried to encourage such learners to complete their programs instead of using them as transit stations (and drop the programs if they got an access to ‘higher’ option).

2. What were the structural changes and the guiding principles outlined by the reforms?

The reforms that were outlined via high level conferences, public consultations and a pilot period took the following course:

a) Creation of a non-university sector of higher education: The higher vocational (professional) education had already become post-secondary and recruited mainly graduates of academic track. Several domain-specific institutes had already pushed for decisions to upgrade them as colleges of higher education. Now, the reform opted for upgrading such institutes into HE but at the same time creating merged polytechnics that would cater for the constant development of their departments. Via these mergers and a national accreditation process the newly created polytechnics became eligible for the Bologna process. (Later on, the polytechnics started to use the name ‘universities of applied sciences’.)

b) Separation of the secondary vocational education from the higher vocational education: The above mentioned reform led to an institutional separation between the secondary vocational education (that remained in vocational schools) and the higher level (that was upgraded and integrated into the polytechnics). As a compensatory measure, the reform maintained the vocational progression route from secondary vocational education to polytechnics.

c) Flexible curricular cooperation between ‘academic’ and vocational programs in upper secondary education: Another major feature of the reforms of the 1990s was to enable flexible curricular cooperation between upper secondary schools (‘academic track’) and vocational schools. Instead of integrating them into a common institutional and curricular framework, new cooperation options were opened. Firstly, learners of both type of schools got the opportunity to choose courses from the other type of schools. E.g. ‘academic learners’ with interest in economics could choose commercial subjects from vocational schools. And vice versa, ‘vocational learners’ with interest in continuing to higher education could choose general subjects from the upper secondary schools. One step further was the option of obtaining dual qualifications – the Finnish baccalaureate (Abitur) and the vocational qualification – via a mutually adjusted schedule.

Altogether this reform agenda tried to to solve the problems of the earlier periods in the following way:

  • by redirecting the academically oriented educational demand to both universities and to the newly created polytechnics,
  • by maintaining the vocational progression routes (from vocational schools to polytechnics)
  • by encouraging boundary-crossing curricular cooperation and educational choices between the ‘academic’ and ‘vocational programs in upper secondary education.

In this respect the emphasis was mainly on providing new opportunities for Higher Education, but at the same time trying to enhance the attractiveness of vocational education as well. From this point of view it was important that the vocational programs had the same duration as the general/academic programs.

I think this is enough of the educational reforms and of structural changes of the 1990s. With this quick recollection I tried to reconstruct the political and cultural background of the current debates. However, there is a need to have a closer look at the role of workplace learning and apprentice training in the Finnish VET system as well.

More blogs to come …

 

 

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    Gap between rich and poor university students widest for 12 years

    Via The Canary.

    The gap between poor students and their more affluent peers attending university has widened to its largest point for 12 years, according to data published by the Department for Education (DfE).

    Better-off pupils are significantly more likely to go to university than their more disadvantaged peers. And the gap between the two groups – 18.8 percentage points – is the widest it’s been since 2006/07.

    The latest statistics show that 26.3% of pupils eligible for FSMs went on to university in 2018/19, compared with 45.1% of those who did not receive free meals. Only 12.7% of white British males who were eligible for FSMs went to university by the age of 19. The progression rate has fallen slightly for the first time since 2011/12, according to the DfE analysis.


    Quality Training

    From Raconteur. A recent report by global learning consultancy Kineo examined the learning intentions of 8,000 employees across 13 different industries. It found a huge gap between the quality of training offered and the needs of employees. Of those surveyed, 85 per cent said they , with only 16 per cent of employees finding the learning programmes offered by their employers effective.


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